Free Speech Faculty Lair

The Faculty Lair

This occasional faculty development series will encourage dialogue about hot topics in higher education, showcase successful projects and practices, and initiate faculty reflections on career trajectories. Events mostly consist of lunchtime panel discussions that put faculty members from different disciplines in dialogue with each other.

Spring 2019

February 6: Academic Dishonesty: How to Prevent It and What to Do if You Encounter It

Ever wonder if your students are cheating or plagiarizing?  Wondering what you can do to prevent such unfortunate occurrences?  Prof. Rebecca Finlayson, Director of the Writing Center, and Prof. Courtney Collins, Faculty Liaison to the Honor Council, talked to us about best practices in heading off plagiarism among students, as well as how to handle the process of going to the Honor Council if a case of academic dishonesty does arise.  

To prepare us, we read a piece from the Atlantic, How to Stop Cheating in College.  It argues that an honor code can go a long way toward preventing academic dishonesty.

  • Teach about plagiarism.  If you are concerned that students might plagiarize on papers, be sure that you devote class time to telling your students what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.  Teach them when to quote from a source and when to paraphrase it.  Teach them that correct paraphrasing involves changing the structure of a sentence rather than just switching out words.  Teach the value, purpose, and format of proper citation. 
  • Use the resources that the College provides in order to prevent plagiarism and academic dishonesty.  The Writing Center has published a Guide to Effective Paper Writing that includes information on plagiarism, paraphrasing, and citation.  The College also subscribes to Turnitin, an online tool that attempts to deter plagiarism by showing students and professors how much of their work is borrowed from other sources.   (If you have not used Turnitin, contact helpdesk@rhodes.edu for more information.)
  • If you believe that one of your students has violated the Honor Code, contact Courtney (collinsc@rhodes.edu)  Be sure to include a brief description of the situation, including the name of the student and the course.  If you are unsure whether an incident should be handled by the Honor Council, feel free to contact Courtney to discuss it.  She’s happy to do so over the phone or in person. 

Here is the handout that we received from Courtney Collins about what to do if you think you have a case of academic dishonesty.   

February 28:  High-Impact Practices

What are “high impact” practices at liberal arts colleges today?  What does research show about what types of experiences—in and out of the classroom—have the greatest effect on students’ learning?  Michael Bamberg, Associate Dean of the College & Director of the Center for Enhancement of Teaching & Learning at Clark University, and Nancy Budwig, Associate Provost and Dean of Research at Clark, along with our own John Bass, Director of the Mike Curb Institute for Music at Rhodes, led this session.

In preparation for the session about what educational practices—inside and outside of the classroom—have the greatest impact on students’ learning, we read an essay by one of our panelists, Nancy Budwig.  She argues that “general knowledge stems from acquiring both the habits of mind and repertoires of practice that develop from participation in knowledge-building communities.” 

Here are some of the take-aways from the session:

  • High Impact practices (study abroad, community engagement projects, senior capstones, etc.) can dramatically increase a students’ sense of purpose and satisfaction (especially among first generation college students), thus contributing to the holistic development of students. 
  • Colleges can foster high impact practices by implementing pathways – through the curriculum, student life, or the implementation of a portfolio – that prepare students to develop and reflect upon their identities as learners and scholars. 
  • Rhodes faculty can develop collaborative projects – such as the work being done in the Curb Institute and in many of our labs – that focus on the process of learning together, as opposed to being focused solely on research outcomes. 

March 14:  Lightning Round:  Quick Lessons from the Classroom

We had seven—that’s right—seven presenters offer quick, five-minute tips about things they have learned in teaching.  Jonathan Fitzgerald, Erin Dolgoy, Ari Eisenberg, Tom Bryant, Betsy Sanders, Kendra Hotz, and Steve Haynes all shared some of their techniques and insights regarding teaching. 

In preparation, we read a few pieces from the Chronicle to get us thinking about student learning and great teaching.  One offers four properties of effective teachers, while the other tells us about five things that we can do as teachers to facilitate student learning.   

Here are some of the takeaways from the presentations:

  • Utilizing social media and interactive games can keep students learning the material outside of class, particularly during the long break period between Thursday and Tuesday class sessions.
  • Eliminating or limiting the use of laptops and other devices in certain classes can help students focus on class discussion, listen more attentively to their peers, and develop the skills of patience and reflection.
  • Asking students on the first day of the semester to give their desired names and pronouns can help build a more inclusive classroom learning environment.
  • Making oneself approachable through “strategic self-disclosure” in class can help humanize professors in the eyes of students, thus avoiding the intimidation factor that often interferes with student learning.
  • Employing group projects in which students teach each other, support each other, and hold each other accountable can foster a deeper investment in class material while also teaching the skill of collaboration.   Software such as Basecamp or Trello can facilitate such projects.

April 17:  Teaching the Whole Person at Rhodes

What does it mean to teach the “whole person?”  We interact with our students face-to- face, both inside and outside of the classroom.  In light of a recent New York Times article that described human contact as a “luxury good,” this session considers the question of how we teach and relate to our students as human beings.  Both faculty and students bring their whole selves to the classrooms.  How do we push and challenge our students intellectually at the same time that we demonstrate compassion for them as humans?

This session connects a number of threads from the last two years of Faculty Lairs:  face-to-face learning, teaching difficult topics, and engaging the generation of students born in the twenty-first century.  We hope to consider such “big picture” questions as the institutional relationship between Academic Affairs and Student Life at Rhodes, the goals of the College’s curriculum (especially the First Year Seminar and the Search/Life programs), and the “soft skills” that our curriculum might not specifically address – such as empathy, compassion, collaboration, and civic engagement.

Prof. Tim Huebner (Director of Faculty Development and Mentoring), Dr. Russ Wigginton (Vice President for Student Life), and Prof. Susan Satterfield (Greek and Roman Studies/Search) will lead this discussion.

 

Fall 2018 Schedule

Monday, September 17th: Professors and Free Speech at Liberal Arts Colleges

“Professors and Free Speech at Liberal Arts Colleges.” What is freedom of speech and how does it apply to what we do in the classroom? Is freedom of speech the same as academic freedom? Is the vigorous exchange of ideas central to the liberal arts enterprise, or should respect for human dignity and sensitivity to the harm that words may cause inform our teaching? In our polarized environment, is this a political issue? Have conservatives “weaponized” free speech, or have liberals become too “politically correct?” Many books have addressed these issues, and the Chronicle of Higher Education recently devoted a special section to the topic.

Jonathan Marks of Ursinas College, Laura Beth Nielsen of Northwestern University, Allison Stanger of Middlebury College, and our own President Marjorie Hass participated. Marks, Professor of Politics, has written on higher education for InsideHigherEd, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, and Commentary Magazine. Nielsen, Professor of Sociology and Director of Legal Studies at Northwestern, has written about law and inequalities of race, gender, and class. Stanger, Russell Leng ’60 Professor of International Politics and Economics, wrote opinion pieces in the New York Times in 2017 titled “Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion,” and “Middlebury, My Divided Campus.”

Here were some of the practical suggestions and strategies that emerged from the discussion:

  • Laying the ground rules for class discussion at the beginning of the semester (or the beginning of a class session) can help everyone to understand that the classroom is a community, where we need to abide by certain norms.
  • Assuming the best (rather than the worst) of our colleagues and fellow students can sometimes alleviate the sense of harm felt as a result of another’s words.
  • Interrogating the assumptions behind one’s passionate argument or emotional response can be an opportunity to push the conversation to a deeper level – through reasoned discussion.
  • Listening empathetically can help to cultivate humility and patience in attempting to understand another’s position or argument.
  • Modeling civil discourse during class discussion – and teaching students about the First Amendment tradition of free speech in the U.S. – can help to improve our ability to engage in honest, reasonable disagreement across our campus.

Thursday, November 15th: Teaching iGen: What Faculty Need to Know about this Generation of Students

Carey Thompson (Dean of Admission), Natalie Person (Professor of Psychology and Chair of Educational Studies), and Jamia Stokes (Associate Dean for Student Success) offered their reactions to Jean Twenge’s book, iGen, as well as other thoughts on how to educate those born in the twenty-first century.

In preparation for our session, we took a look at a few pieces from the New York Times.  One specifically mentions Twenge’s book and how higher education is adapting to the new generation, while the other piece argues that, contrary to all of the talk about the influence of technology on this generation, “teenagers aren’t losing their minds.”   This brief blurb, which offers a few thoughts about things institutions should consider when teaching this generation, recently appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Here were some of the practical suggestions and strategies that emerged from the discussion:

  • Making clear to students that the classroom is a “sacred space,” in which they will have to let go of digital distractions, or experimenting with “digital fasts” in certain courses, in order to make students aware of the addictive nature of their devices. 
  • Using the new Collaborative Classroom (102 West Campus) as a way to foster healthy face-to-face in class collaboration among students, assisted by technology.
  • Teaching the art of classroom discussion, so that students learn how to disagree with one another, and even thanking students when they provide wrong answers in class, thus allowing the professor the chance to explain why an answer is wrong while allowing the student to avoid embarrassment. 
  • Making students aware of the College’s Counseling Center, which employs a larger staff than ever before.

The challenge of engaging this generation of students is ongoing, so this will likely be the first of several conversations on such topics.